Allergy Friendly · Being Changed · Joy · Snacks

Adapting Amid Disappointment, and (Allergy Friendly) Classic Chex Mix

Dear Joey,

For the third year running, the Goobies and I trick-or-treated without you. It all started a couple years ago when you kissed us goodbye and flew far away to say your last goodbyes to your grandpa. We missed you, but it was easy to forgive your absence that year. But the following year, our excitement to have you home with us was short lived: Vertigo stole you from us early Halloween morning (remember?) and didn’t return you back to us until well into the night. The timing of your illness surprised and irritated me and I found it difficult to play the sympathetic wife in the midst of my own disappointment, and I vowed to keep my expectations for future Halloweens low from then on.

Easier said than done, of course.

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In hindsight, I realize I made myself an empty promise because why wouldn’t I expect you to spend Halloween with us?  In the days leading up to Halloween this year, you doted on the Goobies, going above and beyond (ahem, spoiling them) with costumes this year in a subconscious attempt to make up for your absence the past two years, I think, and all the while I was bracing for the blow that hadn’t even come. Until then, out of nowhere, it did: urgent surgeries had been scheduled for Halloween night. It wasn’t your fault, of course, but my disappointment made me want to blame you. Can’t you get out of it? I begged. This is the third year in a row. Your hands were tied, there was nothing you could do, and so I excused myself from the conversation, shut myself in the bathroom, and cried.

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As the tears fell, I realized I wasn’t really mad at you. I was upset about the situation and  confused by your seemingly cool attitude toward it. You didn’t seem nearly as ticked off as I felt, and that bothered me. But oh, those Goobies. They are defenders and copycats, a dangerous combination when adversity tempts me toward a bad attitude. But I was quick to remember that if I continued to slink around with a chip on my shoulder, they would do the same. I didn’t want them to be angry with you. Disappointment is part of life. People will let us down, but what we do with that disappointment matters most.  After a moment or two, I wiped my eyes and shook off the crazy, resolved to make the best of it.

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All of this reminded me of a story Sally Clarkson tells about how her husband’s work took him away from their young family more often than she appreciated. An otherwise doting and involved father, his career took a turn that demanded a bit more time and effort than anyone at home really enjoyed. One night in particular, Sally was particularly not happy about having to say goodbye, but she knew showcasing a bad attitude about the ordeal would give resentment a foothold–not only in her heart, but in her kids’ hearts too. So instead, she chose to send him off with waves and smiles from happy kids, then wrapped her arms around her them after he had gone and suggested with a smile they go inside for cheeseburgers and a movie. She chose not to let disappointment dictate her behavior. I realized, I ought to do the same.

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I didn’t make cheeseburgers like Sally did, but I did make Chex Mix. And corn dogs. And I served dinner on a festive table with candy corn strewn this way and that in an attempt to bring fun into what could have been a bummer of an evening, if I had let it. In the days leading up to Halloween, all I could see was my own disappointment over the past few years. Until then it didn’t occur to me how disappointed you must have been. You were the one having to do hard things instead of traipsing through the neighborhood asking for candy with the kids. Dealing with death, suffering through illness, and working late into the night are not the same as skipping out on your family. You were forced to spend another evening missing out on all the fun. My moping around and holding a grudge wouldn’t make any of it easier on you; if anything, it made it more difficult–and not only for you, but for all of us.

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We missed you, of course, but we had fun anyway. Friends came over and my folks skipped choir and we all bounded out the door toward an evening of fun–all because, well, what good does it do to sulk? Life’s let downs aren’t easy to face, but it is possible to adapt amid disappointments. We just have to choose to do so, which admittedly, isn’t easy or immediate, but it is always worth it. When you finally made it home to rest late that night, you flicked through the pictures on my phone and laughed out loud, heart bursting to see your Goobies smiling.

Love,

Scratch

Classic Chex Mix (Gluten and Dairy Free Style)

IMG_3844In our house, Chex Mix in October is like cookies in December: you can’t have one without the other. The warm, savory scent of this stuff crisping up in the oven plunges me right back into the Octobers of my high school years when I first started making it on my own. I must have learned how to do it from my dear friend Molly’s dad (thanks Allan!), although I don’t remember him ever showing me how. But I do remember him making it every year without fail, a tradition both Molly and I have embraced as our own, in our own ways. Clearly, our family makes it both gluten and dairy free, but believe me when I tell you you cannot taste a difference. This version is every bit as fantastic as its gluten-and-dairy laden cousin. Chex Mix is an effortlessly customizable treat, food allergy flexibility at its finest.

Note: If you want to use wheat Chex in addition to rice and corn, use 3 cups each rice, corn and wheat, for a total of 9 cups of Chex cereal.

Ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 cups rice Chex cereal
  • 4 1/2 cups corn Chex cereal
  • 2 cups gluten free pretzels (such as Trader Joe’s or Snyder’s)
  • 1 cup mixed nuts  (such as 1/2 cup almonds and 1/2 cup cashews)
  • 7 Tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan buttery spread), melted
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
Method:

First, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, in a large bowl, mix together the cereal, pretzels and mixed nuts. In a separate small bowl, mix together the Earth Balance, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Drizzle the seasoned sauce over the dry ingredients. Using your hands, toss the mixture well until evenly coated. Pour onto a cookie sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for a total of an hour. Pour the mixture onto a big paper grocery bag (that’s been cut open, as shown below) and let it cool. (The mix gets crunchier as it cools.)

IMG_3853This is what a double batch looks like, about 24 cups worth. A single batch (as written above) yields about 12 cups.

Chocolate · Faith · Food Allergy Family · Peanut Allergy

All Is Well, and Dark Chocolate Almond Clusters

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.”

Romans 5:3-5

Dear Joey,

Now that October is wrapping up, all sorts of traditions are lining themselves up in a row, like dominoes, and this week will knock the first one over and set in motion a series of events that will swirl through the final two months of the year and plunge us into the new year. What’s waiting for us at the end of it all is a big heaping pile of exhaustion. As tired as I am already (and it’s not even November!), our much-anticipated New Year’s Day tradition of starting a Harry Potter movie marathon is beckoning me. Call me a nerd, but this is one of my favorite traditions of the whole year: a time to put the Goobies to bed and veg out in front of the tv without having to set up or attend a single party for the first two weeks of the year. This time around, as I look forward to the promise of those two relaxing weeks, I can’t help but think about two very specific lines from the series, lines that resonate with me in a new way: “Eat this. It helps. It really, really helps” and “All was well.”

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The first is spoken in the early days of Harry’s adolescence by Professor Lupin, an older, wiser man who saves Harry’s life before they have properly been introduced. When an unforeseen force singles Harry out and forces its will upon him by sucking out hope and love and any semblance of normalcy, Professor Lupin steps in to fend off the attacker. When the danger is over, he offers Harry a piece of chocolate, telling him “Eat this. It helps. It really, really helps.”  (Is it any wonder why this line speaks to me?) The second line is “All was well,” the famous last line of the 7th book that assures readers the Boy Who Lived actually continues to do so–happily, even.

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I totally 100% believe Professor Lupin’s words that chocolate helps. Every time I take a bite I sigh a prayer of thanksgiving for its power to soothe. I am convinced God smiled as he dreamed up chocolate, and that He had a smirk on his face as he slipped the cacao bean into creation like a treasure hidden waiting to be found. The same is true in our house: the stuff is stashed in nearly every room. It’s in the medicine basket, high up on the pantry shelf, deep in the freezer and wedged between bottles of wine. Half eaten bars are strewn on my nightstand and tucked deep under piles of books; wrappers are wadded up on the counter and full bars are piled precariously on top of the checkbook. It’s on my mind and on the shopping list and in my plan for how to spend the evening. Chocolate helps, you see, so I keep it in arm’s reach at all times. I know ultimately it’s God who helps, of course, but for me, chocolate provides a way to taste the goodness of who God is. It slows me down, helps me breathe, and reminds me to appreciate the sweet things in life, not be bogged down by the bitter things.

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This is what happened a few short weeks ago when I took Mia to the allergist’s office for her follow up scratch test to see whether she had outgrown her peanut and pine nut allergies or not. That brave little girl walked in a little nervous about whether or not the scratches actually hurt or not, but calm and certain she would walk out of the office that day rewarded with good news. As I watched her back erupt in those telltale firey red splotches, I panicked. Disappointment welled up from within me and silent tears came as I wondered how a little girl with resolute faith that she had been healed would swallow this bitter pill. I felt powerless to defend her against this adversary, but somehow all I could think of was what Professor Lupin says about chocolate.

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The doctor is the one who broke the news to our girl. He started with the good news that her allergy to pine nuts was gone, but quickly followed that up with the not-so-good news that she was still very much allergic to peanuts. He commended her for being so diligent in avoiding them, talked about upcoming desensitization therapies, and urged her to be brave and add tree nuts to her diet because they would help with her allergy. In short, he offered her the hope that I couldn’t. But her sidelong glance betrayed her uncertainty about eating things like almonds, as if she was silently asking me if this guy was for real. “How will almonds help my body gain strength against peanuts?” her glower seemed to whisper. I smiled, rubbed her back, and told her, “I don’t know, but maybe we ought to try?”

 

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Mia has been scared to let any sort of nut into her system. I can’t blame her: the last time she had an allergic reaction it was to cashew butter that had been contaminated with peanuts. The jar did say “May contain peanuts,” but I hadn’t seen it until it was too late. Oops is an understatement. That’s the day we learned to take the ingredient note that says “May contain peanuts” very seriously. (“May contain” now means “definitely contains,” as far as we’re concerned.) The poor little thing broke out in hives and her face started to swell, and as I cried and prayed, she apologized, saying “I sorry I had ‘lergic ‘action, Mommy.” It wasn’t her fault at all–it was mine, completely. I hadn’t read the label correctly, and she was paying the price for my mistake. From then on, that poor girl has lived with an unnecessary fear of nuts, and every time she freaks out about it I feel bad that I did that to her.

 

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But here was the allergist–her trusted doctor whom she knew to be an expert on allergies–encouraging her to eat those dreaded tree nuts, perhaps by starting by swirling almond milk in smoothies or pouring it over her morning bowl of cereal. Mia was dubious at first (insisting she hates the taste of almond milk), but she took the doctor’s orders seriously and we brainstormed other ways she might enjoy eating almonds as we drove away from the his office that day.  “What about chocolate covered almonds?” I asked.

Mia’s eyes lit up and she gasped, “Ooh, yeah! Good idea, Mama!”

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And so, we set about making chocolate covered almonds at home. I have bags and bags of chocolate chips at the ready almost always, and almonds are a pantry staple too. Melting those chocolate chips down and spooning it over a pile of almonds for our girl was healing, in its own way. Those little candies finally convinced Mia that almonds aren’t something to be feared anymore, that they are a safe food for her and that missing out on pre-packaged, peanut-contaminated treats aren’t such a big deal when stuff like this lingers on the kitchen counter. As she happily ate them, I finally breathed a sigh of relief, believing all would be well.

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And really, all is well. Mia walked into that doctor’s office with the calm assurance that God had already healed her–not just from the peanut allergy, but from the pine nut allergy too. The scratch test was a formality, in her mind–a hoop to jump through before she joined the ranks of the other kids who don’t have to sit at the cafeteria’s allergy table at lunchtime. When the test results were in and she peanuts were clearly still a problem, my heart sank. I imagined Mia’s did too. She was so confident in what she hoped for and certain of what she couldn’t see yet. What must it have felt like, I wondered, to not only be disappointed, but to also to have to face her fear of tree nuts head on too? I thought she would walk away disappointed and angry.

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But Mia’s hope did not disappoint. In her classic wiser-than-her-years style, she pointed out, “But Mommy, I did get healed. I don’t have my pine nut allergy anymore!” She’s right, of course. She believed she had been healed, and she had been, if not in full, then at least in part. The whole situation buoyed her faith; it didn’t drown it. And sure, she had to face her fear of letting tree nuts back into her diet, but she did so with beautiful courage I wish I had myself. (Well, courage and chocolate, because chocolate helps.) Whatever residual guilt I feel for the fact that she has to live with a peanut allergy is washed away when I see the character she’s developing in the midst of this adversity. Time and again, this girl shows me all is well, and all will be well.

Love,

Scratch

Dark Chocolate Almond Clusters

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These clusters are super, duper easy. Three ingredients (or just two, if you only use one kind of almonds.) Sure, you could fuss with them and make them fancier (vanilla extract, a sprinkle of sea salt, a swirl of caramel) but as written they are straightforward enough to make on a whim. I like to melt the chocolate in a saucepan (and don’t bother with tempering it), but you could melt them in the microwave to make things even more simple. If you keep chocolate and almonds on hand almost always (like I do), you could make a batch right now and be done in less than 15 minutes. To make them truly peanut free, choose chocolate chips that are made in a peanut free facility or otherwise certified peanut free (like Enjoy Life or Guittard brands). I use Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate Baking chips, which are made in a peanut free and gluten free facility, and do not contain milk. They are perfect for our food allergy family, but please read labels to make sure they are suitable for yours. (Ditto for the almonds.)

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate Baking Chips
  • 3/4 cup dry roasted, unsalted slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup dry roasted, salted whole almonds
Method:

First, spread out a large sheet of parchment or wax paper (about 12″ long). Next, measure the almonds into a medium mixing bowl and give them a quick toss. Then, pour the chocolate chips into a small saucepan and melt over medium heat, stirring constantly, until all the chocolate has melted and there aren’t any lumps left. Pour over the almnods immediately and stir until all the almonds have been coated.

Scoop the chocolate covered almonds onto the parchment paper by the tablespoonful (or so), and let cool until set. (If it’s warm in your kitchen, you might want to put the whole batch into the refrigerator until they harden.) Makes about a dozen.

 

 

AIP · Food Allergy Family · main dishes

A Post-AIP Update, and Shrimp Fried Cauli-Rice (AIP, Whole30, Paleo, Allergy Friendly, and So On…)

31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  — Mark 6:31 (NIV)

Dear Joey,

One of my blogging pet peeves is this: a post that starts with a line that goes something like this: “YOU GUYS–I’m SO sorry I haven’t written for, like, ever, but things have been crazy around here–I mean, like, CRAZY. I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to breathe, let alone update anything here. But whatevs–I’m baa-aack!” What’s with the apology? Do bloggers really think readers need that? We’re all busy: readers and writers alike, because we’re living in a culture that is frenetic. So often busy is a badge we pin on to prove our worth–to ourselves more than to anybody else, I think. But Jesus himself shows us that right there, in the middle of those busy seasons, we need to pull back, take a break, rest. Let’s all give ourselves a little grace, shall we?

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In this season, living my actual life has mattered more than writing about it all, and so the words haven’t been presenting themselves to me. Emery started potty training; Addie had a hard time adjusting to new people and surroundings; Mia cried and whined and clung to me after school every day; and I visited the doctor more times in the past few months than probably my whole adulthood combined. Project after home-improvement project began in full force around here we’re praying for direction to determine where our family’s future will be. House hunting started again, and then there was homework and more homework and sisters learning the hard way how to coexist peaceably, and a little boy who is very good at being two years old. And through it all, everyone wanted to eat something other than mixed greens with salmon.

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Going through the motions leaves me wrung out though, and while others may paint or sing or play the guitar, I write to recharge. And so, without further ado, here’s my attempt to give myself a break and write a short update on what’s been going on around the Love, Scratch kitchen:

The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). One word: yikes. Another three: difficult, but doable. Whole30 claims it is not hard to do, and after you completed your own Whole30, you confirmed that it wasn’t hard at all. But guess what? The AIP is hard to do. No, it’s not fighting cancer difficult, it’s not dealing with the death of a loved one difficult, but it is a different sort of difficult. The AIP is far more restrictive than Whole30, so the logistics of doing the shopping and preparing the food made the whole thing time consuming and exhausting. I imagine if I were a single, unattached female with plenty of cash to spare and no one else to think about or care for, the AIP might be easier. I’m not any of those things though, so the AIP made me tired and took away the fun of cooking and eating. But it was doable. The food was yummy, monotonous as it was. Sweet potatoes with coconut oil and sea salt, or mixed greens topped with lean protein and a drizzle of red wine vinegar and olive oil became my go-to meals. What helped was knowing it wasn’t forever–well, that and your resounding cry of “Solidarity, Rach.”

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Even so, sometimes it was easier not to eat at all. Toward the end, you munched on your salt and pepper pistachios as I sat silently sipping my sparkling water, turning my nose up at an evening snack of coconut chips because coconut as a food group could disappear, for as much as I cared by the time the first 30 days were over. (I really think I may have killed my taste for coconut and avocado, too–and I’m waiting with bated breath to see if I will ever enjoy them the way I used to.) By the end of those first 30 days, my appreciation for you and your support reached new heights, and you have no idea how much hearing it over and over lifted my spirits and kept me from sneaking bits of dark chocolate into my mouth when your back was turned.

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After 30 days, I added restricted foods back in quicker than recommended. It was a desperate time because the stress of other aspects of life swirled and threatened to take me down and I swear if I had to drizzle honey and coconut milk into weak black tea one more time I was going to lose it. I learned I enjoy coffee for its actual flavor and not just the hit of cream and sugar that typically comes along with it, and I use chocolate as a coping mechanism. I also learned I’m 100% ok with that. Neither bothers my system, as it turns out, and they were among the first foods that found their way back into daily life. Since then, I have added eggs and spices and nightshades and nuts and even small amounts of dairy–everything except copious amounts of gluten free grains and legumes, really–and I’m doing great.

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I was still in the process of slowly adding things back into my diet when we went to ATT Park to watch Matt Cain pitch his final game in the major leagues, though, so instead of snacking on popcorn or nachos or even a hot dog on a gluten free bun, I opted for peanut M&M’s because somehow those seemed like a better choice. The rare treat tasted fantastic for about a half a second, until the box was empty and I felt yucky. Faint dizziness was my companion for well over week after that. I’m still not sure whether it was the surge of sugar or the peanuts or just sheer coincidence (dizziness can be a symptom of food sensitivity during the reintroduction phase), and really, I may never know. Either way, the experience certainly did not make me eager to snack on the usually off-limits snack any time soon. (Mia-bug, you are not missing out on anything.)

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The good that came out of the AIP experiment is this: I can do hard things, even when it comes to food. Also, I have a newfound appreciation for the convenience of a jar of marinara sauce. Mostly, though, I’m thankful to know my digestive troubles really are linked mostly to grain–glutenous ones, mainly (though I’m not completely certain because I have not reintroduced all grains, yet. Rice seems to be ok, but I’ve only really tried very small amounts in things like a sample bite of a new banana oat muffin recipe I’m working on for the Goobies. And about two gluten free Joe-Joe’s. But I digress.) I also realized, again, how fantastic my body feels when I stick to foods that don’t contain grains at all. We tended to cook and eat grain free in our pre-AIP/Whole30 days anyway, and the fact that we didn’t dive into big bowls piled high with gluten free pasta as soon as that month was over tells me we will continue to eat mostly grain free. (I suspect I will seek out the gluten free hot dogs at ATT park and skip the peanut M&M’s from now on, though.)

And so, I’ll keep coming up with grain free foods that feed us well. Gluten free goodies will be part of our lives too, because they can be, thank you Lord–and peanuts will continue to stay far, far away from our kitchen until the day Mia’s prayer for healing is answered the way we all hope it will be. I may write about the recipes, because it recharges me, but I might not get around to it as quickly as I’d like, because I’m allowing myself to rest. But I promise to keep the kitchen humming along in real life, feeding the frenzied brood we call Goobies as best I can. I bet I’ll even enjoy it again in the days and weeks to come.

Love,

Scratch

Shrimp Fried Cauli-Rice

IMG_3451This dish was borne out of a craving for Chinese food well into my AIP adventure. Chinese food is a hard one for my anyway (because soy sauce has gluten in it, which renders Chinese takeout a mere memory, for the most part), but with the additional restrictions of the AIP, Chinese food seemed like a lost cause. Coconut aminos are a good substitute for soy sauce, but its sweetness demands to be offset with an acid–like lime juice. Lime juice and shrimp are match made in heaven anyway, and so this version of shrimp fried cauliflower rice was born (but of course, use chicken instead of shrimp if you’re allergic to shellfish). It’s AIP (when prepared without scrambled eggs or red chili flakes), Paleo, Whole30, gluten free, grain free, dairy free, nut free, you know–all the things–but don’t let that convince you it’s anything but delicious. This one made it to the top ten list of Joey’s most requested dinners fast, and it was the AIP dish I made when I was just plain tired of sweet potatoes and salad.

Ingredients:
  • a couple dollops of refined coconut oil (refined = no coconut flavor)
  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen cauliflower rice (2 bags from Trader Joe’s freezer section)
  • 1 pound frozen pre-cooked bay shrimp, thawed
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup sliced green onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup coconut aminos
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • optional: 2-4 eggs, scrambled (omit for AIP)
  • optional: red chili flakes (omit for AIP)
Method:

First, dice the carrots and par-cook them (I put the diced carrots in a microwave safe bowl and cover them with water, then microwave them for about three minutes to soften. This speeds up the whole affair, but feel free to saute them in the oil before tossing in the frozen cauliflower rice.) Drain them when they are tender (not mushy), and set aside.

Next, in whisk together the coconut aminos, lime juice, ginger and sea salt and it set aside as well.

Then, if you’re going to toss scrambled eggs into your finished dish, go ahead and scramble them now in a separate pan. When they’re done, set them aside too.

On to the main event: plunk a couple dollops of coconut oil into a saute pan and warm it up over medium high heat. Toss in the frozen cauliflower rice and toss to coat in oil, then crank up the heat to high. Add the par-cooked carrots, green onions and minced garlic and stir. Next, pour in the sauce and stir and cook and stir and cook–it won’t take long for the sauce to start to coat the veggies and evaporate. Add the shrimp next and stir and cook some more, and finally add the scrambled eggs (if desired) and toss to coat them in sauce too. Top the whole thing with a few more sliced green onions (and red chili flakes, if you like things spicy–and aren’t AIP.)

 

Allergy Friendly · Control · Family Life · Food Allergy Family · main dishes

Teaching the Kids to Camp (or Learning to Teach by Example) and Hobo Dinners

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30

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Dear Joey,

We started taking the kids camping this summer. Equipped with a new-to-us pop up camper and fueled by your adventurous spirit, camping sounded fun to all of us until the reality of doing so with three small children slapped us both in the face. I dreaded going because it sounded anything but easy, and while being outdoors and drinking in the warm, sweet scent of the redwoods is up my alley, the whole roughing-it-with-three-kids-in-tow part fills me with dread.

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I come by it honestly: the family vacations of my childhood involved running water, actual beds, and corner diners where kids eat free on Sundays. Roughing it for us meant five people sharing one bathroom and trying in vain to get a decent night’s sleep (which was challenging, since my dad and brothers all snored). Camping just wasn’t something our family did together, so the weight of your expectations for it all to go smoothly made me nervous before we even left the driveway.

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But the promise of an overnight camping trip practically made Emery come unglued. He shrieks with hysterical glee at the mention of the word camper, so the idea of actually going out in the camper overnight, with you? Talk about excitement. That kid is happiest just being near to you, and watching him watch you reminds me of how thrilling it must have been for the disciples to walk with Jesus all those years ago, living with him, learning from him. And your patient, nearly wordless interaction with Emery helps me understand what Jesus must have meant when He said, “walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it.” As soon as we ease the camper into its spot, he pops out of the Durango with one thing on his mind: being at your side as you crank and secure and connect and make ready. You hardly have to say a word: being with you is enough for him.

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The Goobie girls learn by watching too, of course, but we’ve slipped into the habit of doing things for them because it’s easier to keep them out of the way until suddenly we remember we ought to be teaching them life skills and we end up barking orders left and right in the name of proactive training (and retraining) that elicit tears, not results. They end up trying to follow a stringent set of rules they don’t fully understand, and we get angry when they break those rules or when our instructions are met with blank, confused stares.

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We end up sitting them down to have a lengthy discussion about the do’s & don’ts and how’s & why’s of this that or the other. It’s forced, and the girls couldn’t care less about whether we think it’s important for them to follow those rules or not. They are burned out. Why do we think we’ve got to sit them down and lecture them about rule following instead of letting example be their teacher? Jesus didn’t go around checking off a what-not-to-do list with His disciples; He showed the how to live by living that way Himself and inviting them to join him. Shouldn’t we do the same?

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We’re trying, of course. At least we know this about ourselves (right?). But it’s extra challenging when it comes to camping because the onus falls on you to take the lead because you are the one who actually knows what he’s doing, and it’s a tall order for you. Your patience runs thin against your will, like that last time we took the camper out for a quick over night trip when those Goobies tested your patience before they even got out of the car, for goodness sake. They didn’t know campsite etiquette or decorum; they didn’t know their boundaries or eve what to do, really. They wanted to help, but didn’t know how to help, and I didn’t know how to have them help either. So they played in the dirt and complained and cried and I tried to keep them quiet (ha!) as you tackled setting up camp on your own.

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The hard truth is that your fuse for little people who still didn’t know a thing about how to camp was short, and you spent the evening fighting the urge to get lose it with the kids who you so badly wanted to enjoy the affair. At breakfast the next morning, after one too many cereal spills and too-loud early-morning giggles, your stern face betrayed the fact that you were frustrated, upset, and not having fun at all. I quietly put my hand on your arm and whispered, “If you want the kids to enjoy this, you’re going to have to change your attitude.”

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In that moment, you realized this: the kids don’t know how to camp, and they won’t know how to camp unless someone teaches them. Of course kids run and jump and scream and shout, laugh and giggle and chase and zoom this way and that, gathering sticks, making dirt roads, balancing on old logs and flinging piles of leaves toward each other. They run down hills and shine their flashlights in each other’s eyes and sing at the top of their lungs and exclaim at the beauty of the forest without feeling sorry about it (and is that really a bad thing?). They don’t know how to help or what not to touch or what leaves are ok to touch and which ones are poison oak; they don’t know how close is too close to a campfire or how to roast marshmallows; they don’t know the value of sitting quietly to appreciate the echo of chirping birds–they don’t know because, well, how could they? When you  realized this Something clicked, breaking down the idea that the kids instinctively should know how to do things you’ve known how to do for decades. You realized the only way they’ll learn is if we teach them. I imagine that’s why Christ came and taught the way he taught. Clearly the rules and regulations of religion weren’t cultivating relationship, and so He came to teach a better way of living by example.

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That trip shifted something inside you, and armed with the promise to do better and be better for the sake of all our sanity, we set out for another camping trip, and oh, what a difference. We all worked together to set up camp; the kids jumped in and found ways to be helpful almost without any instruction from us at all. Mia swept; Addie decorated; Emery turned the crank. We went exploring and found white fallow deer and a shady bench beneath an ancient redwood tree and sat, quietly watching the Goobies relish the wide, unrestricted space of the mountaintop and all the dirt that went with it, digging, drawing, and dancing in the stuff. Dirty faces and dusty clothes in tow, we came back to build a campfire and cook dinner. You situated the Goobies’ chairs, taught them how to respect the fire, and set about showing them how to roast hot dogs and marshmallows right along with them instead of doing it for them. And the evening was sweet, fairly stress free, and promising.

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The kids walked away from that trip wishing it wasn’t over so soon and begging for another camping trip to be in the near future. It wasn’t perfect, exactly, but it was wonderful. We showed up and worked hard and exercised patience–and we enjoyed each other. By the grace of God, and with His help, the kids learned so much more this time because we taught them–you taught them–with so much more than words.

Hobo Dinners

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Hobo dinners are a new-to-us camp food experiment that will certainly turn into traditional fare around our campfire. Root vegetables, onions, meat, fire–these are the simple things that kept fed families for generations, and making them in the crisp September twilight made camping seem totally doable–and enjoyable, too. I love how easy they are to throw on the grill–fussing around with dinner prep was one of my biggest objections to taking our food allergy family camping. As if feeding the five of us isn’t complicated enough, throwing camping into the mix made my head spin. This time around was even harder, what with me on the Autoimmune Protocol and Joey on the Whole30, dinner at a campsite made me want to cry. But then in a moment of inspiration, I thought, “Oh yeah! Hobo Dinners! I’ll try those.” I saw the idea for them earlier this summer when we first got the pop up camper, but just hadn’t tried them yet (hot dogs were just easier the last couple of times). But this time, Hobo Dinners came to my rescue and they were a hit. Use stew meat instead, or add some potatoes or mushrooms, and throw in whatever seasonings sound good to you. This recipe yields 4 portions, so multiply as needed. You’ll see the recipe is more of a method, so don’t fret too much about quantities. (In fact, you can cook two burgers in one packet if you want to.) Follow your gut.

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Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning the veggies
  • 3 cups root vegetables (sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, yukon gold potatoes, etc)
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions (red, white, yellow–use what you like)
  • a few glugs extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
 Method:

First, mix seasonings into the ground beef–mush it all together and form into four patties. Set aside.

Peel and slice the root veggies. Toss them in a couple of glugs of olive oil and sprinkle with salt (and pepper, if you you like; I omitted this for AIP).

Assemble the packets:

Arrange two 2′ lengths of aluminum foil in a cross. Place the root vegetables in the center, top with an uncooked patty and drizzle some more oil on top. Fold the first layer of foil up over the burger and crimp, as if you were rolling up a paper bag. Then do the same with the bottom layer of foil, enclosing the first packet in an outer layer of foil and crimping tightly, so that the foil is sealed.

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To cook:

Place the packets on top of the campfire (use the grate provided!) and let cook directly over the flame for 15 minutes. Remove, and let rest for a minute or two (they’ll be hot!). Unwrap foil and enjoy.

 

 

Bravery · Food Allergy Family · Peanut Allergy · Wrestling with Reality

“The Talk” and how I broke the news to Mia about what living with a peanut allergy really means

Dear Joey,

Mia came home from school full of stories yesterday, as always. Yesterday’s tale was enough to make my stomach lurch, my mind spin, and my silent prayer of “ThankyouJesusthankyoujesusthankyoujesus” audible to all the host of heaven.

“Mommy, guess what? Today at school some kids told me to eat a muffin they promised didn’t have any peanuts in it. I told them no, but then they kept saying eat it, eat it! It doesn’t have peanuts! So you know what? I ate it. And it didn’t have any peanuts in it.”

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I’m pretty sure I looked horrified as she told me this story, because her excited smile turned timid in a flash, and she sheepishly nuzzled up to me as I thanked her for telling me the truth, told her I was happy the muffin didn’t have any peanuts, and admitted I was disappointed she broke the rule. I stroked her hair and reminded her that until she’s a little bit older and responsible enough to read and understand food labels, she may not accept food from anyone else at school.

And then, we had the talk: the one in which I tell her that other peanut allergy kids have died because they have mistakenly eaten peanuts they didn’t know were in a treat. I’m not sure we’ve really had that talk before.

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The language we use around here consists of things like Peanuts make you sick and Here’s your emergency medicine just in case, but you won’t need to use it because no one will have peanuts around you. Sure, she knows she gets hives, and she is aware in a cognitive sort of way that they could make her tummy ache, throw up, give her an itchy tongue or make it hard to breathe, but I can’t put my finger on a time we’ve told her they could actually make her stop breathing. For a preschooler who is only ever in an environment supervised by myself or teachers at a strict nut-free preschool, this was sufficient. We haven’t needed to tread farther down the road yet.

But she’s not in preschool anymore. She’s a Kindergartener who eats lunch in a cafeteria at a nut-free table around which peanut butter and jelly sandwiches surreptitiously swirl. She’s on her own out there, and until yesterday I trusted that she would fervently obey our rule to only eat the food I packed in her lunchbox. I was mistaken.

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Shaken by her story, the whole truth about why her allergy is so dangerous spilled out of me like a confession: peanuts might make her stop breathing, and could ultimately take her life away from her. I told her it has happened to other kids like her, kids who mistakenly ate snacks with peanuts hiding on the inside, which is why it’s so important for her to not take food from any other kids at school–no matter what.

Her eyes fell, and they looked steeled against this new difficult truth like dams struggling to hold against the pressure of the river behind it. She burrowed into my chest, and didn’t say a word.

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I don’t want her to be bogged down by fear, but what choice did I have? How long can she scamper into the schoolyard, wide eyed and trusting that all other kids will take her allergy seriously if she doesn’t know the whole truth herself? It’s the fear I live with every time I wave goodbye to her: that food from sources unknown will cross her lips and enter her body, setting off a series of events more terrifying than I really want to tell her. Sending her into a place where peanuts swirl around her, where she is relegated to the nut allergy table, where she feels marginalized and left out because of something that is completely, 100% not her fault breaks my heart. But she had to know, didn’t she?

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The truth is this: lots of kids have peanut allergies. Very few of them die from them. Those deaths are tragic and infuriating, and I pray our Mia continues to live a healthy, happy life without so much as an unexpected bout of hives causing her trouble. But I have to remind myself that kids can live lead a happy, normalish life even with a peanut allergy. I have to be courageous as I begin to relinquish responsibility for Mia’s well being, choosing hope as I ease the truth into her hands, even as I wish I could carry it for her forever.

We never stop praying that Jesus will heal her from this allergy. We know He can. We don’t know if He will this side of heaven, although Mia firmly believes He’s already healed her. I pray she’s right, and glory hallelujah the party we will throw to celebrate if it turns out she is–and it could be as early as this month (because another scratch test looms in the weeks ahead). But until then, we live in that in-between place, doing the best we can to protect her, train her, and empower her until the healing is done.

Love,

Scratch

 

AIP · What I Ate · What I Love Lately

What I Love Lately: AIP for Me Edition

Dear Joey,

Clearly you are well acquainted with what you can eat on the Whole30, but do you ever wonder what I’m eating these days? (I bet sometimes you wonder if I eat at all.)

The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) seems tricky, right? Like the Whole30, but more restrictive, more purposed. Lots of folks stare blankly at me when I mention I’m not eating tomatoes right now. Or coffee. Or seeds. The truth is, though–it’s not terribly complicated, and it helps to have these lists posted in the kitchen cabinets. Really, the AIP is the most stripped down diet I can imagine–meat, veggies, and fruit. The thing that makes it the most tricky, really, is that not all veggies are on the “yes” list–nightshades (things like tomatoes and peppers and white potatoes eggplants) and legumes with edible pods (like green beans) are on the “no” list, which admittedly makes my heart break a little bit every time I go out to the garden to pluck those ruby red gems off the vine. Otherwise, staying within the AIP parameters isn’t hard, exactly, because it’s similar to the way I ate before the AIP anyway. The biggest hurdles have been staying away from eggs and cutting out nightshades, nuts, or seeds (which includes coffee and chocolate.)

But I’m finding my footing and making it work, and in return, it’s working for me. I pretty much feel like I’m on autopilot these days: I click the “on” switch and my brain somehow just knows what to do. It wasn’t that way at first; it took a couple days to get the hang of it (I mistakenly sprinkled pepper on my salad on day 1. Whoops.)

In the morning, I meet the day armed with a smoothie made with canned full fat coconut milk. Trader Joe’s makes theirs without any emulsifiers or gums, so it’s perfect to whirl together with a frozen banana, a handful of frozen berries and a scoop of integral collagen. If I’m feeling particularly spunky, I drizzle in some honey, too, or maca powder to add a hint of nutty sweetness to the mix. This usually satisfies me until lunchtime, which isn’t super surprising since I make I use full fat coconut milk. Sometimes I don’t even drink the whole thing (because Emery swoops in and steals it without asking).

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When lunchtime rolls around, I do one of two things depending on my mood: heat up leftovers from dinner the night before or make a fresh salad, like this one with arugula, grilled chicken, sliced Persian cucumbers, strawberries, green onions, tossed together with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil (and a sprinkle of sea salt to finish). Sometimes I toss in a can of wild salmon instead, or a handful of wild bay shrimp. Sometimes I even change it up and make tuna salad with avocado mayo from my new favorite cookbook, The Healing Kitchen, which is brimming with useful AIP guides and AIP recipes. If I’m still hungry, I don’t shy away from eating leftover pulled pork straight from the fridge. Or a scoop of roasted coconut butter straight from the jar. You know how classy I am, right?

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Afternoon snacks are often sliced apples with roasted coconut butter or a handful of Made in Nature Cinnamon Swirl Toasted Coconut Chips (sweetened with maple syrup, which is ok for me, but not for you. So sorry, Whole30 diehard). There’s always sweet little mandarins or dried apricots or slices of Plainville Farms organic sliced turkey rolled around a dill pickle wedge. Yesterday I finished off the bag of my new favorite Jackson’s Honest Sweet Potato Chips because a crunchy, salty snack = my happy place.

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Dinner is when the real challenge happens. It’s 5:00, the kids are tiredhungrygrumpyfamished, and negotiating my restrictions with everyone else’s restrictions (and their preferences) gets tricky. I am learning to make one common main dish to center the meal and hold it together while spin offs happen in every direction, like Braised Beef Roast with Kale and Dried Cherries, which the kids ate sans kale over brown rice noodles, and we ate over cauliflower rice. Everyone loved it (well, everyone loved the beef; the kids turned their noses up to the kale), and leftovers didn’t last long around here. (The next day I warmed up a bowl and topped it off with leftover honey roasted carrots. That was a good day.)

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But then there’s dessert. (Strictly speaking, Whole30ers like you shouldn’t be eating anything for dessert. So let’s call it an after dinner snack, shall we?) Sometimes we’re hungry after the Goobies are fast asleep (when dinner is served around 5:30, hungry happens, you know?), so we often grab a bag of Trader Joe’s Sweet Plantain Chips and use them to scoop up smooth, creamy Organic Wholly Guacamole minis (which don’t have any peppers, thus making them nightshade free!). Sometimes I miss surprising you with fancy cheese trays and a glass of wine, but I find that dates all rolled up inside a blanket of Whole30/AIP approved bacon and a sparkling water makes you equally happy.

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And of course, there’s often some sort of AIP test treat lurking around the kitchen, and even though most of the time they’re only ok-ish, repeat performances usually yield progressively better results–like when that AIP pie failed miserably the first time around, but has since been perfected. Pies and crumbles and pastries so delicious will soon abound, and I’m sure we’ll get these Goobies on board with us in no time.

Until then, thanks for the solidarity. Love does hard things together.

Love,

Scratch

 

 

 

 

AIP · Learning from Mistakes · Life with Littles · Paleo · Trying Something New

How Crying Turned to Laughing, and the Story of an AIP Fail

Blessed are you who hunger now,
    for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
    for you will laugh.”

Luke 6:21 (NIV)

Dear Joey,

So I made a pie on Sunday.

In classic Rachel style, the thought of getting back into the comforting rhythm of cooking helped ease me out of the thick blanket of despair I wrapped around myself last week when the ER doctor threw his hands up and said, “You are a medical mystery.”

That’s what we all want to hear when we are being discharged from a 6 hour stint in the ER, isn’t it? My other phantom pain flared up last Wednesday, sharp in front and cutting through to the back, making each breath feel like razors were rattling inside. I went to the ER, a visit that left me more bewildered than I was before I went in. I spent the next few days shedding a lot of silent tears at night, trying to feel better. By Sunday I was out from under the blanket, but weak and fumbling and without much of an appetite. By Sunday, pie sounded soothing.

Ah, but–the AIP. And the Whole30(ish) thing you’re doing. Clearly, pie, or any other sort of comfort food was not the way to soothe away this particular heartache. And yet, I am not doing this crazy restrictive diet to lose weight or retrain my brain to eat only when I am really hungry, or even to retrain my palate to learn to love flavors as they naturally occur. I am doing it because I don’t have much other choice, at the moment. I have been sick, and I needed to heal.

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And so after I fought with myself over whether to make a pie or not, I chided myself for toying with the idea of not making it, and I headed into the kitchen to make the most miserable pie I ever made. And I learned (again) three things:

  1. Listen to my gut.
  2. Laughter soothes my heart just as well as a good slice of pie can.
  3. God doesn’t always work the way I think He will, but I can trust Him anyway.

So this pie: I admit I had my doubts about it from the get go. Although it was completely AIP compliant and looked normalish, something about the ingredients just sort of nagged at me, telling me “I’m not going to work the way you think I will.” 

But I ignored it, saying to myself What do I know? I’m still learning how to use all these ingredients the right way, and who am I to say whether there’s something wrong with the recipe? I whisked together the coconut flour and arrowroot starch, tossed in some sea salt and cut in the coconut oil. I pressed the dough-like-substance into the bottom of a pie pan, crimped the edges with a fork and poked holes in the bottom. I baked it until golden, the smell of the toasty warm crust working its way into my heart and lifting my spirits as it went.

As it baked, I stirred together frozen mixed berries and lemon juice, brought it to a boil, and then reduced the heat to let it simmer away by half. Then I tossed in another few cups of berries into the thick, juicy syrup, gave it a stir and waited to pour it into its cradle. Out popped the crust, in went the filling, and back into the oven the whole thing went for another few minutes, just long enough to fill the house with the enticing aroma that comes only from a freshly baked pie.

 

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This thing looked perfect. Unbelievable, really. On the oven top it sat, and you jokingly said you’d buy me a house with a kitchen that had a windowsill for me to cool pies on, and buy me pretty spin dresses and high heels, and a string of pearls and new tubes of lipstick, too. We laughed, because it was late in the afternoon and I was still in my pajamas, and holy moly if I needed a shower.

But the pie sat there like a promise: almost too good to be true.

Emery heard the oohs and ahhs, and clamored for a piece of pie after polishing off his dinner plate. “I want pie,” he said as he nodded his head, letting us know this was not a request, but a requirement.

So I got out a knife and a pie server and a plate, set up my cutting station and huffed under my breath, “I don’t know about this…

IMG_2876The crust wasn’t cooked through at all. In fact, it was a goopy mess of what can only be called Paleo slime. No one believed me that it was ruined–the thing looked too beautiful to be ruined, except the whole thing was soft and mushy–an utter mess–on the inside.

I scooped some out anyway, believing you when you told me it probably tasted better than it looked. (You remember I told you it had absolutely no added sweetener to it, right? No sugar, no stevia, no honey or maple syrup? Nada!) I lovingly brought the plate to that expectant little boy of ours, who was beside himself happy for the only piece of pie he’s ever asked for. Pie isn’t something I make regularly.

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A look of glee and contentment spread across his face as he scooped up his first big bite, only to be replaced by revulsion in an instant.

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Laughter erupted around the table, of course, which egged you on to try to convince him to take another bite, which he did, the poor kid.

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He glared at you, unsure. Angry. Duped.

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Somehow, you convinced him to try again.

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To say he hated the pie it is an understatement.

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And yet, somehow, he managed to recognize our laughter in the middle of his own freak out. The boy clearly inherited your jocularity because once he noticed he was the center of attention, and he willingly took a few more yucky bites to get a few good laughs out of it.

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I was ready to toss the whole thing. You and my parents (and even Emery, to some small degree) convinced me not to, though, insisting that we had to at least try it because so what if it didn’t turn out perfect the first time? (Agreed. I don’t care about perfection: I care about palatability.)

I should have trusted myself. I had serious doubts about the merits of this recipe before I even attempted to make it. I wasn’t really surprised when the crust failed miserably. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong or where, but something did go wrong.

We still ate the pie (shockingly). It wasn’t sweet, but it wasn’t tart either. It just tasted like really good baked fruit (if that’s a thing?). And the oozy pie crust turned into something more akin to a topping than a crust, and the whole thing ended up giving us a satisfying (if unconventional) small bite of something sweet-ish after dinner that night. But I think the best thing about that pie was the laughter it elicited. Hearing belly laughs around the table was like medicine–it cleared my head and released my tension and helped me see beyond myself, and outward toward the people and things that bring me joy. And through it, God seemed to whisper to me, “I’m not going to work the way you think I will. But trust me anyway.”

Love,

Scratch